With the approaching festive season, traffic safety will once again be in the spotlight. Unfortunately, road accidents will make this a time of great sadness instead of a celebration for many families. The Law Enforcement section of the Eastern Cape Department has a staff of only 556 people. Of this 32 people are senior management and 534 are law enforcement officers.
The only way to limit the carnage on our roads is to stop motorists from taking chances driving unroadworthy vehicles, overloading, speeding and drunk driving. This can be achieved by visible policing on our roads and by effective traffic law enforcement.
In a reply to a legislature question I asked Transport MEC Wiziwe Tikana, she said no new appointments of additional staff were in the 2014/15 or 2015/16 financial years, due to insufficient funding for the programme. In 2016/17, 40 new interns were appointed and in the current financial year, 35 traffic officers were appointed.
This leaves the province with a ratio of 1:1 456 traffic officers to registered roads users, which increases dramatically over the festive season when holidaymakers visit the province. What is of further concern, is that the ratio goes up to 1:4 050 patrol cars to registered roads users due to a shortage of vehicles.
Research has proven that most accidents occur late at night or in the early hours of the morning. This is the time when there is little or no law enforcement on our roads. The current operating system in the province for traffic officers is a two-shift system: from 06:00 to 14:00 and from 14:00 to 22:00. Thereafter officers operate on a standby system. In other words, if an official works beyond the standard hours, it is regarded as overtime.
With such a small staff the task at hand is mammoth. The department is trying its best under difficult circumstances. There simply are not enough people to do the job.
The Eastern Cape is a growing province with 88 000 registered vehicles on the road at any given time.
The looming introduction of the demerit system (AARTO) will create more problems than solving them. There are much better ways to reduce road accidents and the lawlessness on our roads.
The Democratic Alliance believes that within a well-run, a safe and caring province the following interventions are of utmost importance:
- To request additional funding from the national and provincial treasury;
- To reprioritise the budget in order to avail more funds for service delivery;
- To rework the outdated organogram for Traffic Law Enforcement;
- To recruit, train and appoint new members annually in order to reach the adequate number of traffic law enforcement officers;
- To uplift the morale of members; and
- To establish a fully functional 24-hour law enforcement in the province.
By doing so, the department will create a culture of a safe, law-abiding and visible law enforcement. That will ultimately see the birth of 24-hour traffic law enforcement on all our major road networks in the province.
Marshall von Buchenroder
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